Tag Archives: Vampires

Ink Stains and the Brainy Girl

31 Mar

2000irises: Ink Stains and the Brainy Girl — A review of webcomics

In honor of Dilbert creator Scott Adams’s recent coming-out as an asshat (be sure to click through and read Adams’s original post!), I thought it might be therapeutic to take in some truly wonderful, original, creative comics by and featuring brainy women.

If you haven’t spent much time exploring the almost infinite world of web comics, it can be somewhat daunting. In the interest of avoiding another Irene Adler-sized post, I’m only going to tap three examples here, but consider this the first in a series of posts about web comics. The traditional comics publishing world may still be a boys’ club, but online, anything goes.

I credit my first recommendation to my supersmart and oh-so-cutting-edge friend Ifreet, who is a kind of awesome magnet. She always finds the coolest stuff ages before I do. I literally keep a notepad out when she’s around because she’s always pointing me to things I need to see, hear and do. (I still owe her my first-born child to pay off my Sassy Gay Friend debt.)

–Lately, Ifreet has been raving about 2D Goggles or The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua. I cannot second her rave enough.

In 2D Goggles, Actual Real Life friends Ida Lovelace and Charles Babbage – Victorian mathematicians, scientists and engineering vanguards — team up to fight crime (by which they mean street music and poetry.) Some of the best things about this comic:

  1. It’s pretty: Frenetic drawing style paired with keen composition, technical know-how, and an eye for meaningful detail.
  2. It’s funny: Sassy dialogue, pop culture references and bad puns aplenty.
  3. Footnotes: Oh yes girls and boys, Padua is good at research, and she really, really wants us to get her in-jokes. I get smarter with each installment. (I cannot say the same thing for Dilbert. *ahem*)
  4. Hyperlinks: Wanna learn more? Padua hyperlinks like a maniac: primary sources, secondary sources, visual inspirations, tangentially related nonsense, completely unrelated nonsense – it’s all here for the clicking.

The nice thing here is you can begin at the beginning and you don’t have thousands of comics to read through before you get to the newest installments. The episodes run concurrently, and each has its own arc.

–Next up is Bite Me! by Dylan Meconis.

Ifreet may have told me about this little gem, too, but I kind of forgot and later rediscovered it on my own. What’s it about? Glad you asked. It’s about Vampires! and the French Revolution! It’s sophisticated, funny, and has some kick-ass lady vamp types.

I’m a sucker for kick-ass lady anythings, really. Buffy is a personal hero. But, honestly, I’m suffering from vampire burnout. Too much Buffy, perhaps. More likely too much Twilight, Vampire Diaries, Being Human, etc. I’ve always been a fan of the vampire trope, but it’s pretty much circled the drain since Anne Rice. Thankfully, Meconis avoids falling into the current “tortured vampire” cliché – the one that pits the “I’ll eat anything that moves” vampire against the “God I love/resent/desire fragile humanity” vampire. The vampires here are mostly cool with being vampires and are on the run and having fun. Flying heads! Funny Hats! Robespierre! Go vampires go!

Ms. Meconis began this comic in high school, because she had, as she says, “a burning desire to simultaneously make fun of A Tale of Two Cities and Interview With the Vampire.” She actually completed Bite Me! in 2004, and now publishes a newer web comic called Family Man, which I also highly recommend.

–And finally, we have Subnormality.

Subnormality is the kind of comic where you read through all the panels, and then you have to go back and look closely at the art because it’s peppered with funny, sad, lovely details you probably missed the first time. Most of the episodes are one-offs, but Subnormality does have a recurring character in the form of a 3000 year-old sphynx. She wanders around a modern metropolis trying desperately to understand why people live and feel the way they do. She bumps up against contemporary social constructs and wonders why human beings’ priorities are so screwed up. It’s sharp at times, almost cynical even, but mostly Subnormality is poignant and has a very curious, quite gentle approach to talking about human frailty. “Sexier Than” actually made me cry. (Yeah, I’m a sucker.)

The artist/author of Subnormality is Winston Rowntree – the pseudonym for a guy who earned my eternal devotion by plainly declaring, “I’m downright feminist.” Many of the characters in these strips are women, and he writes women well. He writes men well, also. And sphinxes. And monsters. And so on. Mr. Irises introduced me to Subnormality, and it’s only loyal gratitude that keeps me from writing Winston Rowntree daily love letters. Well, that and my pride.

If you’re interested in exploring further, here are just a couple more sites where you can find other female-friendly web comics:

Girlamatic.com

and

Feministe’s 10 Webcomics You Should Read

If you have more suggestions, I’m all ears.

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